Outside of childhood stories, most people’s familiarity with elves is through J.R.R. Tolkein stories or Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The supernatural beings, which stem from Norse mythology and German folklore, are said to lead quiet lives and dwell in forests.
Now, they seem to have moved to Shell Beach as the main characters in Judy Malcolm’s line drawings.
“The elves just kind of gradually appeared to me,” she said. “They just started showing up in my drawings, probably in my 20s, and I’m 62 now.”
They aren’t cute little creatures like Santa’s helpers or yard decorations. With their somewhat gnarled, deformed appearance, oversized hands and pointed heads, Malcolm notes that these creatures of the netherworld show a lack of gender.
“They are sensual and in touch with the physical world, but at the same time, they are very spiritual and connected with that timeless spiritual world, so it’s kind of a combination of both things.”
That she calls her drawings (s)elf portraits may reveal something about Malcolm’s philosophy. As they age they become wiser, and return to nature after death.
Malcolm said she always liked to doodle. She took a lot of lifedrawing classes, which could account for her elves not wearing pointy capped cloaks and breeches. Except for three feminine looking dancers wearing costumes, they are naked as the day they were born.
The classes changed her view of the world. “I think life drawing got me to see things in a totally different way,” she said, and shift ed her expectations of what she was drawing as she began to see forms and light and dark.
“I love life-drawing as a meditation,” she said.
She’s also taken some sculpture classes with soft clay, and some print etching classes and watercolor.
“I always seem to come back to the pen-and-ink line drawings,” she said. Some of the art on display is in color, but most are black-and-whites. Some show the elves with creatures, such as a crow, or butterflies. Others show them engaged in activities such as playing a cello or merely seated on a wooden bench.
Malcolm has quite a stockpile of her art on exhibit, noting that she’s done an annual card of one of them every year for 25 years. When a friend offered her beauty salon as an exhibit space, Malcolm went through her work and framed the 9-by-11 originals, shrank any that were larger, and had them all framed. This is the first time she’s exhibited her work.
She’s lived in various towns in California, and was happy to leave Visalia 15 years ago to settle in a small bungalow in Shell Beach.
“It’s a community,” she said. “You know the neighbors; I know the dog people.” She has a couple of small dogs, some of whom appear with the elves in her art.
Malcolm works as a senior living consultant. So far, none of the elves has needed her services.